Saturday Looks Good to Me

Every Night

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Over the course of its career, Saturday Looks Good to Me hasn't tampered much with its mix of artful lo-fi haze, winsome melodies, and pithy lyrics. Change comes with Every Night, but fortunately the band doesn't try to fix what wasn't broken in the first place. Most immediately different is the album's sound: although head Saturday honcho Fred Thomas and Warn Defever reteamed on Every Night's production, this time they use a polished approach that sounds as if it's already been remastered. Paradoxically, jettisoning the faux-vintage patina only makes Saturday Looks Good to Me sound more traditional, as if Every Night was culled from pristine acetates of lost '60s pop. However, the album's performances and songwriting fit well with the clearer production, and though more work might have gone into Every Night than SLGTM's earlier albums, the music is still effortlessly breezy. All of this applies to the charming opening track, "Since You Stole My Heart," which also introduces the band's other major change, new vocalist Betty Marie Barnes. Barnes' voice is just as guileless as those of Erika Hoffmann, Kelly Caldwell, and Ko Melina (who also make appearances on Every Night), but has a richness that matches the album's full-fledged sound. "All Over Town"'s swooping, heartbroken melody showcases her expressiveness, as does the witty ode to missed connections, "The Girl's Distracted." A duet between Barnes and Thomas, the contrast between her lively voice and his softer one plays to both of their strengths. Likewise, Thomas' vocals sound more self-assured throughout Every Night, particularly on "If You Ask," a fantastic song that may be the best thing that Saturday Looks Good to Me has yet produced. Based around a tight organ and guitar groove and vibes that would do the Zombies proud, it expands into swooning choruses with glorious harmonies. It's spooky, restrained, and a real breakthrough for the band: not only does it evoke a classic atmosphere, it owns it completely. Thomas' other moments bridge the gap between singer/songwriter fare and the rest of the album's bright, knowing pop: "When the Party Ends"' A-A-A-A rhyme scheme is alternately funny, infuriating, and impressive; "Dialtone" fuses some of his most intimate lyrics ("I smelled summer in those letters") with a full-band rave-up; and "When You Get to New York" ends the album with a question dressed up in Left Banke-esque chamber pop. This song and "We Can't Work It Out" are the closest Every Night gets to the bittersweet, half-remembered mood that defined the band's previous work (especially All Your Summer Songs), but Every Night is probably Saturday Looks Good to Me's most consistent album, and it manages to make being (mostly) happy sound as compelling as being lovelorn -- no small feat.

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